The competition in California's skies heated up Thursday as United Airlines' Shuttle cut its weekend fares from Los Angeles to San Francisco to $39 each way, based on round-trip travel.
Southwest Airlines, the Shuttle's arch-rival in the intrastate California market, promptly matched the new price.
The carriers' "Basin-to-Bay" fares are good for travel from Los Angeles, Burbank and Ontario to San Francisco and Oakland, and require no advance purchase. For the Shuttle, the new fare is a cut of up to 60% from its normal "walk-up" fares.
There is a major restriction, however. Although travel can start any time on a Saturday, the return trip must depart by noon the next day. The program is in effect until Sunday, May 21.
Although the Shuttle launched this new fare, Southwest noted that it already has a "friends fly free" program whereby a pair can fly within California on any day for $69 each way--or $34.50 per person.
Industry sources said Southwest also is considering a $39 one-way fare within California for individuals, which would be available seven days a week provided the passenger buys the ticket at least seven days in advance of travel. Southwest declined comment on the speculation.